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First round of US vaccinations to begin on Monday

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The US public will start receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine from Monday after it was authorised for emergency use, officials say.

The first three million doses of the vaccine would be shipped “across all states” this weekend, said Gen Gustave Perna, who is overseeing distribution.

The vaccine offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19 and was deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During a news conference on Saturday, Gen Perna – speaking for the US government’s vaccination campaign Operation Warp Speed – said doses of the vaccine would be packed into shipping containers for transportation “within the next 24 hours”.

“Expect 145 sites across the states to receive the vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday, and the final 66 sites on Wednesday,” he said, adding that next week’s distribution would complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and cover about three million people.

Gen Perna told reporters he was “100% confident” that the doses “needed to defeat the enemy Covid” would be transported safely.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-55289726HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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FDA approves Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in US

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The US Food and Drug Administration has authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.

The agency said the authorisation was a “significant milestone” in the pandemic, which taken more than 295,000 lives in the US.

The vaccine, which offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19, was deemed safe and effective by the FDA.

President Donald Trump said the first vaccinations will take place “in less than 24 hours”.

“Today our nation has achieved a medical miracle,” Mr Trump said. “We have delivered a safe and effective vaccine in just nine months.”

Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, told reporters earlier on Friday that his department would work with Pfizer to get the mass vaccination programme started by Monday or Tuesday.

The Pfizer vaccine has already received regulatory approval in the UK, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Like those countries, the US will give its first doses of the vaccine to the elderly, health workers and emergency crew.

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First doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, not yet approved, to land in Canada next week

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A small number of the most vulnerable Canadians could be immunized against COVID-19 before the holidays as the first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are set to arrive next week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday the contract with the U.S. pharmaceutical company and its German partner, BioNTech, was adjusted this week to reflect that up to 249,000 doses of their vaccine will be delivered to Canada before the end of December.

Everything hinges on Health Canada approving the Pfizer vaccine, with a decision expected on that in the coming days. Trudeau said that if approval comes by the end of the week, Canadians will begin getting vaccinated next week.

https://www.cp24.com/news/first-doses-of-pfizer-covid-19-vaccine-not-yet-approved-to-land-in-canada-next-week-trudeau-1.5220256HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Canada could approve COVID-19 vaccine in ‘week to 10 days,’ says Health Canada senior adviser

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Health Canada could be in a position to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine within 10 days, said the senior medical adviser in the agency’s health products and food branch.

“It’s a bit difficult to say exactly the day, because we’re still getting, as we said, information submitted by the company,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, who is also the chief medical adviser to Health Canada’s deputy minister.

“But things have been progressing really well, and we’re expecting within the next week to 10 days to be making a final decision,” she told Matt Galloway, host of CBC Radio’s The Current.

Health Canada is currently reviewing four vaccines, from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Jannsen. The federal and provincial governments are working on the logistics of rolling out vaccines once approval is granted.

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-dec-3-2020-1.5825717/canada-could-approve-covid-19-vaccine-in-week-to-10-days-says-health-canada-senior-adviser-1.5826508HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Canada in talks to donate extra COVID-19 vaccine shots to poorer countries – sources

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Canada, which has reserved enough doses to vaccinate residents against COVID-19 several times over, is in talks with other governments about a plan to donate shots to lower-income countries, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Canada has made deals to buy more doses per capita than any other nation, according to researchers at the Duke Global Health Innovation Center in North Carolina.

It is among a handful of wealthy nations that reserved billions of doses between them before late-stage trial data came in, ensuring they would get access even if only one or two vaccines worked.

Canada could donate extra doses through the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility, which would distribute them among recipient countries, said a Canadian government source.

Separately, a COVAX source confirmed discussions were going on between Canada and other governments and organizations involved with COVAX, a facility created to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-vaccines-covax-exc/exclusive-canada-in-talks-to-donate-extra-covid-19-vaccine-shots-to-poorer-countries-sources-idUSKBN27Y2UUHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Moderna: ‘We’re Ready’ To Ship 20 Million Coronavirus Vaccine Doses By The End Of 2020

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The third and final clinical trial for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is still underway, but the company is already setting an aggressive schedule to manufacture and ship the vaccine immediately if the Food and Drug Administration approves it.

“By the end of this year, we expect to have approximately 20 million doses ready to ship in the U.S.,” Moderna chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks said at an investor briefing on Thursday. “From a distribution standpoint, we’re ready.”

The company has also agreed to supply several other countries including Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Israel and Qatar with tens of millions of doses, Zaks said. By the end of 2021, the company hopes to supply the world with up to a billion doses – or 500 million full courses of the two-dose vaccine.

But that hinges on whether the FDA and the equivalent regulatory agencies of other countries approve Moderna’s product, which is built on a new and untried vaccine technology. Moderna’s vaccine uses RNA, a type of genetic code that also served as the inspiration for Moderna’s name – a portmanteau of the words Mode and RNA. This genetic code instructs human cells to produce a coronavirus protein. The body’s immune system then generates a defensive response to that protein.

The ongoing third clinical trial for the vaccine will determine if that immune response is enough to protect against coronavirus infection. Until the results of that trial are out, there’s no saying if the vaccine will really work.

According to the FDA, Zaks said, a final analysis of the clinical trial would need to show the vaccine is at least 50 percent effective for approval. But, he added, Moderna is setting a higher bar.

“In order to call it a success, we will need to show a vaccine efficacy of 74% or greater,” Zaks said during the investor meeting.

https://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2020/10/29/moderna-vaccine-end-of-yearHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Public-health advisers suggest Ontario has begun to flatten the COVID-19 curve

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Ontario is slowing the growth of COVID-19, the provincial government’s key public-health advisers said Thursday, releasing new projections suggesting the province is, for now, on track to avoid overwhelming its hospitals.

In a briefing for media on Thursday, Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown, dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, said Ontario is now seeing “much slower growth” and appears to be on a similar trajectory as the U.S. state of Michigan – rather than sharing the fate of the Australian state of Victoria, which was prompted to impose extremely strict lockdown measures as cases skyrocketed.

If current trends hold, Dr. Brown said, Ontario can expect a “steady state” of 800 to 1,200 cases a day. “Although cases are continuing to grow, that growth has slowed and we are starting to see a more gentle curve there.”

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-public-health-advisers-suggest-ontario-has-begun-to-flatten-the-covid/HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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People with blood type O may have lower risk of Covid-19 infection and severe illness

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People with blood type O may be less vulnerable to Covid-19 and have a reduced likelihood of getting severely ill from the virus, according to two new studies.

The two independent studies, carried out by researchers in Denmark and Canada and published in the journal Blood Advances, found that individuals with blood types A and AB are most vulnerable to the disease.

The research provides further evidence that a person’s blood type may play a role in their susceptibility to coronavirus and could shed further light on why the illness proves deadly for some but others only experience mild symptoms, or none at all.

Lead author Dr Torben Barington, of Odense University Hospital, said: “We do not know whether this is some kind of protection of group O, or whether it’s some kind of vulnerability in the other blood groups.”

He added: “I think this has scientific interest, and when we find out what the mechanism is, perhaps we’re able to use that proactively in some way in regard to treatment.”

The Canadian study meanwhile found those with blood type A or AB were at higher risk of experiencing severe Covid-19 symptoms than those with O or B.

Analysis of 95 critically ill Covid-19 patients in a Vancouver hospital revealed people in the first category were more likely to require mechanical ventilation and dialysis for kidney failure.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/studies-coronavirus-infection-symptoms-blood-type-a4571031.htmlHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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‘I never saw stars before’: Gene therapy brings back 8-year-old Canadian boy’s sight

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For the thousands of Canadians at risk of blindness, eight-year-old Sam is a beacon of hope.

He is the first Canadian to be treated with gene replacement therapy for a rare form of blindness which had left Sam unable to see sky on a cloudy day, and unable to make out shapes in the dark.

“Sometimes you have to walk in the night and I couldn’t see things and you bump into things,” Sam told CTV News.

He had to have lights on always, and had trouble seeing his shoes or objects on the floor. And the condition was progressive, meaning things would get worse as he grew older — a daunting prospect when there was no treatment available.

But now he can see cloudy skies, shoes and more. The best part of his improved vision, says Sam, are the stars at night.

“I never saw stars before,” he said. “And I also never saw airplanes flying at night.”

He was diagnosed after birth with a genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa, a form of genetic retinal degeneration resulting from mutations in the RPE65 gene.

“You lose perception of light,” Dr. Elise Heon, of Sick Kids Hospital, explained to CTV News. “You end up in darkness and [it’s] slowly progressive, it’s relentless, your visual field shrinks and shrinks and shrinks and shrinks.”

Back in 2019, Sam and his family travelled to the U.S to get the new gene therapy because it wasn’t available in Canada yet.

His mother, Sarah Banon, noticed changes quickly.

“About a week later, I noticed he could get dressed by [himself],” she said. “He could get his shoes on by himself, independently.”

His improvements have continued in the year since he first received the gene therapy.

“He is so much more confident,” his mother told CTV News. “Like getting dressed by himself, matching clothes, doesn’t have to have things enlarged. Being able to [see], even when it’s dark outside, no lights on and it is a cloudy day. He would have to, at school, keep the lights on.

“Now he is able to function as a normal child.”

With the approval of this gene therapy in Canada, doctors are hoping to be able to use it on more patients who qualify — and the earlier the better.

Dr. Peter Kertes, a vitreo-retinal surgeon and Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, told CTV News that the approval of the therapy is “fantastic.”

“This is a huge breakthrough,” he said. “Most of the advances that we have in medicine are incremental. Every once in a while, once in a generation, something revolutionary like this comes along that really changes the course of therapy.”

“This is the tip of the iceberg. I think this is a vector that will prove to be very effective and holds great promise,” he said. “I think many people who are living with blindness or facing blindness, have much to look forward to. I think we’re on the cusp of a revolution in this group of diseases.”

https://www.ctvnews.ca/mobile/health/i-never-saw-stars-before-gene-therapy-brings-back-8-year-old-canadian-boy-s-sight-1.5145830HELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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Countries turn to rapid antigen tests to contain second wave of COVID-19

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Countries straining to contain a second wave of COVID-19 are turning to faster, cheaper but less accurate tests to avoid the delays and shortages that have plagued efforts to diagnose and trace those infected quickly.

Germany, where infections jumped by 4,122 on Tuesday to 329,453 total, has secured 9 million so-called antigen tests per month that can deliver a result in minutes and cost about 5 euros ($5.90) each. That would, in theory, cover more than 10% of the population.

The United States and Canada are also buying millions of tests, as is Italy, whose recent tender for 5 million tests attracted offers from 35 companies. Switzerland, where new COVID-19 cases are at record levels, is considering adding the tests to its nationwide screening strategy.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) now recommends antigen tests to complement existing molecular PCR tests, which have become the standard for assessing active infections but which have also suffered shortages as the pandemic overwhelmed laboratories and outstripped manufacturers’ production capacity.

PCR tests detect genetic material in the virus while antigen tests detect proteins on the virus’s surface, though both are meant to pick up active infections. Another type of test, for antibodies the body produces in response to an infection, can help tell if somebody has had COVID-19 in the past.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-rapid-tests/countries-turn-to-rapid-antigen-tests-to-contain-second-wave-of-covid-19-idUSKBN26Y2PXHELP US SPREAD GOOD NEWS!

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